Book Review The Guardians: The New Homefront Volume 2

The Guardians

This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

I previously reviewed The Last Layover:  The New Homefront Volume 1 by Steven C. Bird as part of Survivor Jane’s preparedness books blog tour.

The Guardians is the second book in the Homefront series.  The story continues to cover the main families from the first book, and introduces two sons of one of the original female characters.

Without giving away too much, one portion of the book deals with fighting the Mexican cartels trying to seize power in south Texas, and another part covers some of the characters in Tennessee who are fighting with marauders.

As far as the story lines, I was not keen on the overpowered cartel.  While I agree that cartels would cause a lot of trouble in a grid down disaster, I imagine they would not be as profitable or have the economic ability to fund a war if the economy collapsed and drug sales went down.  Another aspect of the story I was wondering about was what the federal government was doing and why the states pulled away.  However, there was enough action in the story to keep me turning the pages.

Besides the action in the book, I liked the continuing focus on the small group of characters.   I hope to see the characters continue to develop.  The author also has an extensive knowledge of firearms which provides some good detail.  I look forward to the next installment of The Homefront series.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

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20 Tips on Staying Safe During the Holiday Season

20 Tips on Staying Safe during the Holiday SeasonThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and the Christmas season will soon be in full swing.  Theft and other crimes seem to increase when people are out and about shopping or partying and not paying much attention to anything else.

The other day the management company left a flyer on our door about a “Resident Meeting” regarding apartment safety. I was concerned enough that I attended the evening meeting after work. A couple of policemen and the building management were in attendance. The reason for the meeting was to discuss recent criminal activity in the area, and to warn residents about personal safety.

My neighborhood is in the middle of the city of Houston. If you ever visit the city, you will notice very quickly that the city does not have strict zoning laws. As a result,most areas include a mix of residential, commercial and industrial. One block could be a nice residential area, and across the street would be high rises or industrial parks, unless you live in a planned community in the suburbs. So you can live in a block with nice residences, but go two blocks and you can quickly find yourself in an unsavory looking area. Being careful and aware of your surroundings is very important. Not being critical or negative, that is just the way it is. While we carefully picked the apartment we live in, checked crime statistics and all that, crime in any area is inevitable.

Back to the meeting. Apparently, the management company decided to have a meeting due to a recent shooting that occurred in the complex. They wanted to reassure the residents that it was not a random event but a shooting between acquaintances, a “drug deal gone bad.” There were no fatalities, the shooter was arrested and the victim was shot in the leg. I was still unsettled by the incident – it is not very reassuring to hear that a resident was doing a drug deal. The resident has since been evicted; at least he is not around anymore. The cops also informed us there have been car break-ins and some theft.

Staying safe during the holiday season

  1. This meeting has just reinforced my feeling that there is no such thing as a “safe area.” We need to be on guard at all times, and always aware of our surroundings. Always find out about what’s going on around you. Surprisingly, for a complex this large, not a lot of tenants attended the meeting, considering it was about something important.
  2. Maintain an alert stance and scan the people around you.  Thieves avoid people whom they perceived is too alert and may have already noticed them
  3. If you start to have a bad feeling about your surroundings, stop and pay attention to these feelings, it is your intuition telling you not to proceed.
  4. Thieves try to target people whom they perceive as more vulnerable: the elderly, women alone or women and children.
  5. To avoid being targeted by thieves, think about what attracts these criminals: flashy jewelry, a large purse that looks stuffed with goodies, smart phones, shopping bags, etc.
  6. Carry only what’s necessary and leave the rest at home.
  7. When shopping, always lock your vehicle and do not leave your items in the car, lock them up in the trunk. The cop revealed that they patrol certain malls because thieves are known to “harvest” items that people leave in the cars while shopping.
  8. Consider a protection device such as mace, pepper spray or a concealed gun if you know how to use them and are licensed in your district.
  9. When in public, avoid being engrossed in your phone or tablet.  This sounds simple, but I have seen so many people with their heads buried in their cell phones even while crossing the street.
  10. When walking to your car, have your keys ready in your hand, no fishing around the parking lot for missing keys. Brief inattention to your surroundings can cost you your life. If leaving at night, try to walk with someone or have security escort you.
  11. Train the kids to only open the door to family or friends who know the “password” and never open the door to strangers.
  12. Keep your curtains or blinds closed. The more passersby see your appliances and items, the more likely a thief will get interested in you.
  13. Consider an alarm system or a dog if your building allows it.
  14. Make sure you always lock your doors and windows.
  15. Look around the area before you open your door or garage, as thieves have been know to follow people in as they get home.
  16. Be careful about announcing your activities and plans on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, this will give potential thieves a “heads up” that your house is available.
  17. Before walking or driving up to an ATM machine, make a note of who is in the area.  Is there a car just parked nearby?  Are there a lot of bushes where someone can hide and jump out at you?  If you are not sure, just bypass it and go somewhere else.  The most you will lose is time and possibly gas, but at least you’ll be safe.
  18. When in crowded shopping centers, be alert for pickpockets especially when someone bumps into yo
  19. If you are working late, walk out with a co-worker or call security and have them walk you to your car.
  20. If you feel you are being followed home, don’t pull into your driveway.  Instead, keep driving and go to a crowded area, police or fire station.

Sorry if this article sounds a bit paranoid, but these are the times we live in. A big part of survival mentality or preparedness is paying attention to your own personal and family security.

 

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

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Food Brick and Water Brick Giveaway!

Foodandwaterbricks

Food Brick and Water Brick Giveaway!

Eartheasy.com has graciously agreed to sponsor a pre-Thanksgiving Giveaway to one of our loyal readers so they can get their food and water storage off the ground! Today you get the opportunity to win FOUR water bricks and FOUR food bricks! The Water Bricks can hold up to 3.5 Gallons of water, and are sturdy enough to stack up to 4 feet tall. They are small enough to slide under a bed, and light enough (even when full) to be easily carried with their handy handle. The Food Bricks are the same size as the water brick, but they are specifically designed to pack, stack, and store food. They interlock and stack perfectly with the waterbricks. Both bricks are made of heavy, durable, BPA-free food grade plastic. Food and Water Bricks are perfect for preparedness, disaster relief, or any outdoor activity like boating, rafting, camping, tailgating, and more, and you can enter to win your very own set of EIGHT food and water bricks (4 of each) today!

Meet the Bloggers Involved

The Busy B Homemaker
Home Ready Home
The Prepared Ninja
Living LIfe in Rural Iowa
Prepared Housewives
Food Storage and Survival
Blue Yonder Urban Farms
The Rural Economist
Abundant Living with Less
Are We Crazy or What?
The 7 P’s Survival Blog
Prepared in Every Way
Preparedness Mama
Stop Existing and Start Living
The Tattooed Homestead
Apartment Prepper
Homestead Lady
Trailer Park Homesteader
The Easy Homestead
Fabulous Farm Girl
Little Blog on the Homestead

Terms and Conditions

This Food Brick and Water Brick Giveaway is sponsored by Eartheasy.com, and is open to any resident who is 18 years of age or older who lives in one of the 48 US Contiguous States. This giveaway starts on Monday, Nov. 17th at 6:00 am (CST) and ends on Sunday, Nov. 23th, 2014 at 6:00 pm (CST). The winner will be notified by email and will have 24 hours to respond. If we do not hear back from said winner in the designated time period of 24 hours we will choose another winner and they will have 24 hours to respond from the time the notification email is sent. Please check your SPAM email folders. Good luck to everyone!

Enter!

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Titanium Food Saver Giveaway!

The_NEW_FoodSaver® GameSaver® Titanium_New
This GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer w/Bonus Offer is a sponsored post/giveaway from our friends @ FoodSaver®.com. We are happy to be able to offer you a chance to win one! A vacuum sealer is the perfect tool to preserve your hard won game, to stretch your family’s food budget, and it will also extend the life of your food staples. It is easy to use and will save you money! Michael at The Backyard Pioneer did a full review on this fantastic GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer w/Bonus Offer! If you are a hunter, this is the FoodSaver® Vacuum Sealer you will want for sure! It’s sturdy and heavy duty. Please enter today for your chance to win one…Good luck to everyone!
This FoodSaver® GameSaver® Titanium Vacuum Sealer w/Bonus Offer is a sponsored giveaway and is open to any resident who is 18 years of age or older who lives in one of the 48 US Contiguous States. This giveaway starts on Monday, Nov. 17th at 5:00 am (MST) and ends on Sunday, Nov. 23rd, 2014 at 5:00 pm (MST). The winner will be notified by email and will have 24 hours to respond. If we do not hear back from said winner in the designated time period of 24 hours we will choose another winner and they will have 24 hours to respond from the time the notification email is sent. Please check your SPAM email folders. Good luck to everyone! Let’s be prepared for the unexpected!
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Review of Mr. Beams Ultrabright Weatherproof LED Lantern

Review of Mr Beams Ultrabright LED LanternThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

I had the opportunity to test out Mr. Beams Ultrabright Weatherproof LED Lantern.

The box came with instructions but it is easy enough to figure out and set up.  Just unscrew the bottom lid, open the battery housing unit and insert the batteries.  I tried to turn it on without screwing the bottom lid back on but found you need to screw the lid on shut before it will turn on.  I then took it to the darkest room in the apartment and turned it on.

This lantern gives off a lot of light:  at 260 lumens, it easily lights up an entire room with around 900 square feet worth of space.  Mr. Beams Ultrabright LED Lantern has two settings, bright and dim.  The dim setting gives a good amount of light as well.

It uses four D batteries.  It seems light a lot, but with normal use, the specs indicate an average battery life of 30 hours.  It also has an automatic shutoff feature after 60 minutes, which will help conserve battery life.  I would recommend using rechargeable batteries to save on cost.

The lantern has a USB charging port that will allow you to charge a phone, MP3 player and other USB devices.  However, because I am in between cell phone plans at this time, I was not able to test this feature

Mr. Beams Ultrabright LED Lantern weighs 14 ounces – it is not lightweight and therefore not a backpacking light.  But because it is weatherproof and water-resistant, it would be a good emergency or camping light.  You can hang it upright or even upside down.

Review of Mr Beams3I am always interested in emergency lighting and thought this lantern has a lot of good features.  Mr. Beams Ultrabright Weatherproof LED Lantern deserves a spot in your emergency kit.   It would also make a great Christmas gift for both preppers and non-preppers alike.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

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How to Keep Your Apartment Warm

Staying Warm in a Drafty ApartmentThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

This week, a cold front, AKA polar vortex is coming to town.  Indeed, it was much colder getting out of work this afternoon than it was early this morning.

Our apartment windows are very flimsy.  They are single paned aluminum windows that let in the frigid air.  You can really feel the cold air seeping in as you get closer to the windows.  We had to come up with ideas to keep the apartment warm without doing any major work.  These are the options we considered:

Option 1:  Install window films.

Because we rent, we cannot do anything that involves major alterations, and we want to make sure we get our security deposit back if we move.  Window films are hard to remove, and after pricing them out, we found that window films were also far above the budget.

In a pinch, you can try using clear plastic wrap- just stick it around your windows to keep the draft out.

Option 2:  Plastic Trash Bags

On the opposite side of expensive, some people use plastic trash bags to line the cracks and the windows.  Sounds like it can work, but that would be too unsightly.  It is our windows after all, and I don’t think I want to look at plastic trash bags for several days.

Option 3:  Bubble Wrap

We opted for the middle ground:  bubble wrap insulation.  It is temporary but not so ugly.  Please keep in mind this works because there’s trapped air between the bubble wrap and the window.  If the window is leaking around the frame, this will not work and the window would need caulking instead.

If you are planning to do a project like this, please research the various options carefully.  I am not an expert in insulation or window reinforcements, so your results may vary.  You may find something else that works better in your situation.  Just sharing what worked for us.

Here is how we did it:

We went to the home improvement store and bought several rolls of bubble wrap.  We spent about $28 total for 2 large rolls of bubble wrap and a couple more dollars for painters tape.  Upon returning home, we raised the blinds and started lining the windows with bubble wrap.  We then taped the bubble wrap to the window sill with the painters tape.  We lined each window of the bedrooms with the bubble wrap, making sure the drafty crack between the windows and window sills were covered.

The result was great!  You can really tell the difference in the room temperature.  The cold air stays out, and you can no longer feel the temperature drop and you approach the windows.  From the outside, the bubble wrap does not look obvious so the apartment management won’t notice anything odd.  As you can see from the photo above, the downside is, you can’t see the outside too clearly.   This is only temporary though.  In a few weeks, normal warm temperatures should come back, and the bubble wrap insulation will come off.  Then I can recycle the bubble wrap as packing material.

What are other ways to keep your apartment warm?

  • Space heater.  A small space heater may help, if you set it up in the room you are in.  If you are worried about heating when there is no power, a good possible choice is a propane heater such as Mr. Heater.  However there are precautions that need to be taken when setting it up.  I have not tried it personally, so I can’t tell you how well it works, but see this review from TacticalIntelligence.net.
  • Dress in layers.  When it’s this cold, and I have to go outside, I wear a tank top, a T-shirt, a turtleneck and a jacket.  Am I bulky?  You betcha!  But it works and I don’t like to be cold so I put up with it.
  • Rearrange your sheets.    Cotton sheets are meant to keep you cool, but that is not what you need in a cold snap.  Place the fleece or micro fiber blanket closest to you.  It really works.  Flannel sheets work just as well.
  • Warm up your bed before getting in Use a blowdryer and warm up your bed right before getting in.  If you have a dog or a cat have them snuggle in the foot of your bed – they help keep you warm as well!
  • Hang old comforters or quilted blankets  Readers have suggested hanging comforters or quilted blankets as curtains.
  • Set up a warm room  If you have no power, it’s best to congregate in one room and make it the warmest one.  Set up tents and sleeping bags in the middle of the room.
  • Layer on the blankets.  We place several blankets in addition to the comforter on all the beds in the house.
  • Drink warm liquids.   Sip some herb tea and warm up.  Make a nice pot of soup.
  • Rice heating pad.   Just pour uncooked rice into an old sock, sew it closed.  Microwave it until hot and use it as a warmer.
  • Run electric appliances during the day.  Run the dishwasher, cook and bake during the day.  They all help warm up the house.

Caution:  Always make sure your room is well ventilated.  Always have a carbon monoxide detector.  Never turn on gas stoves for heat.

Each winter, I receive emails from apartment dwellers asking for ideas on warming up their space during a cold snap.  Hopefully the tips above help out.  Stay warm!

© Apartment Prepper 2014

 

Monday Musings: 11/10/2014

Monday Musings 11102014This post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

Welcome to another Monday Musings, where we share interesting links about all things preparedness, as well as updates on the blog.

First the blog updates…

We just had our biggest week here at Apartment Prepper in terms of visitors- my post Substitutes for Toilet Paper was the most shared ever, had over 11,000 views in one day, plus lots of comments.  Thank you to everyone who shared the post – I appreciate it!

This past week I have been busy testing gear for product reviews and catching up on reading.  Gear and book reviews are scheduled two to three months in advance in the blog calendar, to give me time to read, test and post about it.

I have not added any items to the stockpile, in fact, I have been using some of the supplies to supplement the weekly menu.  I’d like to replace the food storage soon, but money has been very tight at the Apartment Prepper household lately.   So we make do or do without.  You can bet I am collecting money saving ideas and will be posting about them.  In the meantime, I have a couple of links to frugal posts below.  I can certainly relate!

Practical Tactical posted a review of Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure.  Check it out here!

We have a great giveaway going on – don’t forget to enter!

Now for the links…

Mark Goodwin over at PrepperRecon released his new book, The Days of Noah Book One:  The Conspiracy  I had read his previous books, The Economic Collapse Chronicles which was a good series.  I am adding The Days of Noah to my book list!

Gaye Levy and George Ure’s book, 11 Steps to Living a Strategic Life: A Guide to Survival During Uncertain Times is on sale of just $0.99.  I reviewed this book – it has excellent and timeless advice for everyone.

No-Shopping November Day One

How to Make Mint Extract + 6 homemade extract recipes

20 Brilliant ways to use Paper Rolls (Paper Towel & TP Rolls)
The Budget is Getting Tighter! 15 Ways We Are Making Lincoln Scream and You Can Too!

Situational Awareness – Breathe Like A Navy SEAL

 Take care and have a great week everyone!

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Foodsaver Giveaway!

FoodSaver Tips And Giveaway-Nov.10th-16th, 2014 by FoodStorageMoms.com
We have some FoodSaver tips and giveaway today! Have you been wanting a FoodSaver® Vacuum Sealer? Well, today is a sponsored post by FoodSaver® and we are so grateful to be able to share this giveaway with our readers! You can use FoodSaver bags, FoodSaver containers and mason jars to preserve your food for the pantry or freezer. This FoodSaver® Vacuum Sealer FM2000 comes complete with the following:

Included In Offer:
3 – Quart Bags
2 – Gallon Bags
1 – 11” x 10′ Roll
1 – Accessory Hose

We quote from the FoodSaver website “The FoodSaver® FM2000 Vacuum Sealing System keeps food fresh up to 5x longer and saves up to $2700 per year based on buying in bulk, on sale and preventing waste. Form and function combine with a sleek, compact design and easy-to-use manual operation to preserve a variety of foods.”

Tips

Use mason jars to make your breakfast meals, salads for a week, buy food in bulk and put in smaller FoodSaver bags or mason jars to store and save $$$$! Please share how you would use this awesome giveaway if your name is chosen as the winner.

Terms & Conditions:

This FoodSaver® Vacuum Sealer FM2000 Giveaway is open to any resident who is 18 years of age or older who lives in one of the 48 US Contiguous States. This giveaway starts on Monday, Nov. 10th at 5:00 am (MST) and ends on Sunday, Nov. 16th, 2014 at 5:00 pm (MST). The winner will be notified by email and will have 24 hours to respond. If we do not hear back from said winner in the designated time period of 24 hours we will choose another winner and they will have 24 hours to respond from the time the notification email is sent. Please check your SPAM email folders. Good luck to everyone! Let’s be prepared for the unexpected!

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Can You Brew Coffee from Stale Green Coffee Beans?

Can You Use Green Coffee BeansThis post is by Bernie Carr, apartmentprepper.com

A few years ago, when I first started my emergency stash, I bought green coffee beans as I was learning to brew coffee off grid.  The beans were purchased in 2010, and were left in the original packaging for the last four years.  I should have repackaged them in mylar bags, but sometimes even a preparedness blogger slips up.

Can You Use Green Coffee Beans 1I found them after we moved to a smaller space and was too cheap to throw them away.  This past weekend, I ran out of my favorite Dunkin Donuts coffee but did not want to break into my emergency supply of Kona coffee.  I thought, “Why not see if these old green coffee beans are still any good?”

What the stale green coffee beans looked like:

They are no longer green but almost look like peanuts:

Can You Use Green Coffee Beans 2

Roasting stale green coffee beans:

I used my cast iron skillet over a propane stove outside.

Can You Use Green Coffee Beans 3

After a few minutes, they started turning brown.  Then, they started smoking, and smelling slightly burnt.  Finally, they started making the popping sound, like popcorn, but not as frequent.

I was a little concerned the beans did not smell as strong as expected.  There was a slight coffee smell, but also accompanied by a toasty smell.  But I was determined to see them through.

I let them toast some more, and turned off the heat.  They do look brown with a slightly oily sheen as they’re suppose to look.  Then I placed them in a colander, shook them around a bit over the sink to let the chaff fly off.

Can You Use Green Coffee Beans 4After they cooled, I used the Nutribullet nut attachment to grind them.  They now smelled like real coffee.

Can You Use Green Coffee Beans 5I brewed the coffee using them the next day.   I would say the coffee aroma was not as strong as when they were fresh, but these are four year old green coffee beans.  I was actually surprised they were any good at all.

Can You Use Green Coffee Beans 6When I tasted the coffee, I found it tasted good; probably not as robust as they would have been had they been properly stored, but I can’t complain.  This experiment was to see if  it’s okay to brew coffee from stale, green coffee beans.  In answer to the question, I would say yes.  But if you want to maintain optimum quality and taste, then store them properly and they will last even longer.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Substitutes for Toilet Paper

Substitutes for Toilet Paper

I recently posted about being off-grid for 48 hours, and using a lot of baby wipes due to the lack of water during our adventure.  One thing that would run out quickly in a survival situation if you did not have a huge stockpile would be toilet paper.  Not having a lot of space we have about three months worth on hand right now, but that can run out quickly.  Also, a large stockpile of toilet paper is not portable in a bug-out situation, and in a shelter in place scenario, the TP supply is bound to run out.

Space saving tip:  Remove the cardboard insert and flatten the roll and you can fit more rolls in a small space.

What are some substitutes for toilet paper?

Back in ancient times, the Romans used a sea sponge on a stick.  They would clean themselves with it, rinse it in the running water (public bathrooms had them on the floor) and leave it soaking in salt water in between uses.

In colonial times, people used corncobs, and later, old newspapers and catalogs were used in outhouses.

Here are a few ideas:

1.  Wet wipes or baby wipes

These would work just like toilet paper, but again, a large stockpile would have to be accumulated.

2. Paper Substitutes

Newspaper may work, but the ink would turn everything black.   I read other people prefer The Yellow Pages but these days, a lot of people don’t keep phone books around.  Store catalogs may be more common, and flimsy pages instead of high end glossy paper would work best.  Just crumple up the sheet until it softens up, then wipe.

3.  Cloth

Cloth, such as wash cloths, terry cloth or  cloth diapers can be used as toilet paper substitutes.  You can even cut up old, soft t-shirts into squares.  If you want to make reusable cloth wipes, this article from Food Storage Moms has good instructions.  The method would be to wet the cloth, wipe, then launder the cloth.  Supporters of this idea feel that most people would have nothing against rewashing cloth diapers, therefore personal washcloths should be okay.  I would think it would be a good idea to throw the soiled wash clothes into a bucket of water with some bleach before washing.

4.  Plant material

Sage leaves are said to be soft and fragrant enough to use, some say banana leaves would work too..  You must have some knowledge about which plants are safe; you would not want to use something like poison ivy, poison oak or sumac by mistake!   Remember: Leaves of three – let it be!

5.  Water

Many countries already use a spray water fountain called a “bidet” as part of their bathroom facilities.  Since this is being considered in an emergency scenario, we would need an alternative to that too.  In many countries, use of the left hand in combination with pouring water in a pan or small bucket with the right hand is the way to clean up.

Possible water carriers:

Fill any of these containers with plain water, add a drop of essential oil for fragrance and wash up.  (Don’t use mint or and don’t overdo the quantity of drops, or you may irritate those sensitive areas.)  After washing, dry the area with a clean towel that can also be reused.

To avoid disease, one would have to wash the hands well with water or antibacterial gel right after.

I’m not ready to give up toilet paper but you gotta do what you gotta do to stay clean.   In an emergency, the water route seems like the most likely one to try.  I may try making those clothes one of these days.  We will keep stockpiling toilet paper for now, and store them efficiently by flattening them for maximum use of space.   Another idea would be to decrease the use of toilet paper by combining with the methods above, thereby extending the life of the stockpile.

Toilet paper shortages sounds unlikely, but it has happened:  a year or so ago, Venezuela faced a toilet paper shortage and the government had to take over a toilet paper factory.   Before I got interested in preparedness, I can recall snagging the last package of toilet paper and waiting in a long line right before a hurricane.  Toilet paper is one of the first items to disappear if a disaster disrupts supply deliveries.  It’s good to know some alternatives just in case.